I recently went to D.C. under the guise of seeing my brother, his girlfriend, KQ, and their adorable French Bulldog puppy, Taco (for proof, see the bottom of this post). Though, if I'm being honest with you, dear reader, I really went to D.C. because I had a free place to stay and lots of new things to eat. I've gone from world traveling businessman to that guy who shows up at your place and doesn't leave. I'm all about trying the best that D.C. has to offer—Masseria, Little Serow, Kapnos, etc.—but my super secret desire was to finally try Shake Shack. I never imagined I'd write about a chain on here, but there are always exceptions. Especially when the founder, Danny Meyer, is a St. Louisan who also went to the same summer camp that I did, Camp Nebagamon.
Basically, Danny Meyer and I are best friends but he just doesn't know it yet, so of course I'm going to check out my best bud's restaurant chain.
Like most people, I'm a fan of In N' Out. Double-double animal style with animal style fries, please. I like their simplicity, I like their flavors, and I like that things are made fresh. However, we St. Louisans do not have the opportunity to eat at In N' Out, nor Shake Shack. Instead, we have Five Guys and Steak & Shake, which is kind of like getting their fat, pimply, apathetic younger brothers.
I needed to see what the hype was all about.
I hit up the enormously popular Union Station location with KQ, a self proclaimed Shake Shack expert. As we waited, I began noticing the things around me—most notably Mast Brothers chocolate bars and Stumptown coffee. It's pretty surprising to see highly regarded companies like that in a fast food burger chain, though if Chipotle could take a quick Mexican concept that had already been done with great success and make it into something healthier, more sustainable, and with a higher level of quality and customer service, why couldn't a burger chain?
Based on KQ's recommendations, I went with a single Shack Burger, topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce, an Abita root beer, and we split cheese fries. The most surprising thing happened when our order was ready: the food looked like it did in all their promotional shots. Everything on the burger looked fresh. Bun, lettuce, tomato—it all looked like something made by humans and not a machine.
So, was it everything I dreamed of? Yeah, I think so. I didn't go in with unrealistic expectations of the world's greatest burger. I wanted a tasty fast food burger. Something on par with a Big Kahuna burger. The edges were surprisingly crispy, more so than any fast food burger I can think of, which immediately gave it a big boost in my book. It wasn't Carl's Drive In crispy, of course, but still—impressive. With the creamy, tangy Shack Sauce and the crunchy lettuce, I was a happy diner.
The fries, once a point of contention there, from what I've read, were crunchy and salty, which is 90% of what I look for in a good fry. The cheese sauce wasn't my favorite, though. I was hoping for something cheesier and goopier—theirs was a bit thin and didn't have much of a cheese flavor. Still, I crushed these and made sure to get every last drop of the sauce. Even mediocre cheese sauce is still cheese sauce!
All in all, I liked my meal at Shake Shack and would happily go back there for some cheat-day meals. Can we work out a deal where they replace all the Five Guys here in town? You're from St. Louis, Danny! Where's the hometown love?
As promised, cute puppy pics: